Akashdeep Singh scored a brace for the Men in Blue.

In a crucial tie that would determine the table topper in Pool D of the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela, India held their nerves to beat a spirited Wales 4-2 here at a packed Kalinga Hockey Stadium on Friday. 

Though the hosts won the match, it is England, with two wins (5-0 against Wales and 4-0 against Spain) and a draw (against India) who finished on top of the pool by virtue of goal difference and qualified directly for the Quarterfinals. India, on the other hand, will need to play against New Zealand in the crossover match on Sunday, 22nd January.

Having registered one win (2-0 against Spain) and one draw (0-0 against England) in pool D so far, the unbeaten Indian Team were on song when they got off the mark against Wales. The forward line with the help of Manpreet Singh, who played lynchpin in India’s midfield created some lethal attacks inside the Wales 25m mark.  Although the first quarter slipped by without any goals being scored, India made a breakthrough in the 22nd minute through Shamsher Singh, who was playing his 50th International match today.

It was Mandeep Singh who had helped India win this PC and while Harmanpreet Singh’s drag-flick was stopped by Welsh’s first rusher, Shamsher Singh picked up a perfect rebound and shot the ball away into the post from the top of the circle. The 1-0 lead brought much cheer among the Indian fans present in large numbers at the iconic Kalinga Stadium, which is hosting the marquee World Cup for the second consecutive time.

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The match, however, took a sharp turn in the third quarter where as many as three goals were scored. India had made a great start to the second half of the match with a PC being awarded to the home team less than a minute into the third quarter. It was Abhishek who had shown resistance in the circle, fighting for the ball that resulted in a foot foul by Wales.

But Wales were well-prepared for India’s ace drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh and stopped him from converting. In the following minutes, Akashdeep Singh and Mandeep Singh worked a brilliant combination to score a fine field goal in the 33rd minute.

The following minutes though saw Wales testing the Indian defence as they won back-to-back PCs and to the surprise of the home crowd, they ended up converting both PCs in the 43rd and 45th minute. Wales’ first goal came from Gareth Furlong and their second goal came from Jacob Draper who picked up a good rebound to put it past India’s experienced goalie PR Sreejesh.

With the score reading 2-2, India were under the pump and had to hold their nerves to overcome this spirited performance by Wales. Akashdeep Singh, who has shown sublime form in this tournament struck again in the 46th minute fetching India a crucial 3-2 lead. India’s fourth goal came in the 60th minute when Harmanpreet Singh finally broke the jinx and scored from a PC to end the match with 4-2 on the board. 

India will take on New Zealand in the crossover match at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup 2023 Bhubaneswar-Rourkela.

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